Jeff Barba: CFO for Hire

A native Rhode Islander, Jeff Barba graduated from Rhode Island College and earned an MBA from Providence College. After gaining several years of experience at a public accounting firm, and a stint in the private sector, he opened Barba & Associates in his hometown of Warwick.

Barba & Associates takes a specialized approach in providing small to mid-size businesses with a “CFO for Hire.” Barba explains that in some cases his firm acts as the entire accounting department of a company, while in other cases it works in conjunction with a company’s bookkeeper.  Barba and his team also work on special projects for companies with an existing CFO or controller.  This approach has proved to be a valuable resource to a wide range of clients.

As an active member of the Rhode Island Society of CPAs, and in particular, the RI Young Accountant Network (RIYAN), Barba believes it is important to seek a balance between work and personal life and to accept that finding that balance is an ever evolving process.    

WHAT COUNTS: When did you first realize you wanted to pursue the field of accounting?

Jeff Barba: My strength academically was always math, or other subjects that were logical and practical.  Reading literature was always a painful endeavor for me.  I was one of those students that would always buy Cliff Notes and try to watch the movie rather than read the novel, but even that didn't work.  I knew I had to pursue a career that was related to math.  I had an interest in learning about business, so the combination of business and math made accounting a natural fit.

WC: What were your first accounting jobs? 
Barba: After interning in the accounting department at Citizens Bank, I worked for the Providence CPA firm Piccerelli, Gilstein & Company.  I did two stints there over seven years and had a vice president of finance job in between for another five years.

WC: When did you decide to open your own firm and what led you to that decision? How did you know you would be successful?
Barba: My firm’s service offering is a bit different than most CPA firms.  Our main service is “CFO for Hire,” generally for companies between $1 million and $20 million in revenue without a full time CFO or controller, but that need a CFO resource on a part time basis.  While I enjoyed many aspects of working at a traditional CPA firm, I felt my strengths were in financial modeling, strategic planning, reporting, analysis, technology, and process improvement.  I wouldn't say I “knew” that it would be successful, but I knew that I had the skill and desire to aid business owners who needed my help.

WC:  What is your range of clients? 
Barba: Most are between $1 million and $20 million firms, but we also do project work for larger organizations that may already have a controller or CFO.

WC: How do you define work/life balance? 
Barba: I am far from a master of work/life balance, but I am always striving to get there.  I would define it as giving each part of your life proper priority and attention.  I once heard someone say that you can never truly achieve work/life balance, but that you are always adjusting.  That makes sense to me.  Of course, that is tough for us accountants as it drives us nuts when things don’t balance out perfectly!

WC: What are some things you do to ensure that you are maintaining a work/life balance?
Barba:  One small thing that helps is scheduling meetings and projects ahead of time.  Now that I am a business owner, I have an endless “To Do” list. There is always something that I could be working on, whether it's work for clients, looking for more companies to help, or improving the operation of the firm.  Scheduling things, especially with other people, forces me to stop working and do something else.

WC: What advice might you have for young accountants who may be studying long hours for their CPA exam, while also working long hours at a firm? Why is it important even early on, that they balance work/life?

Barba: When you are young and ambitious, it is easy to feel the pressure to achieve a lot quickly.  This can be self-imposed pressure, pressure from your employer, or pressure from society.  It’s easy to think that once you achieve something, then you have “made it.”  But invariably, once you achieve something, you will then want to achieve something else.  So, I would say, just remember that it's not a race. I still struggle with this, by the way, so I am certainly not one to try to copy in this area.